This month, we are covering a seemingly simple concept that has powerful, revelatory, and wide ranging applications: Right-Right vs Right-Wrong...Right WHAT-Right HOW/WHY vs. Right WHAT-Wrong (or NO) HOW/WHY.
In the previous post, we saw:
-Discernment is the ability to determine the HOW/WHY so that things can be judged accurately.
-Discernment is the ability that helps us avoid being deceived.
Today, we will look at a gift that takes Discernment one step further: prophecy.
From the I Corinthians Series, Chapter 14, we saw Paul's FULL answer to Topic #10: Spiritual Gifts...people OUGHT to do Spiritual Gifts with the Spirit AND understanding...that will make it profitable for the WHOLE (body/church).
Prophecy was specifically covered by Paul as a gift given to the church...a gift given with the intention of benefiting the entire body, NOT the person with the gift. Again, this is a gift that benefits a group of people, NOT the person with the gift. Paul stated to prophesy was more to be desired than tongues because prophesy brought understanding to all...it gave a WHY/HOW. Remember, "prophesying" included: word of knowledge, word of wisdom, interpretation of tongues...and prophecy when there was an interpretation (HOW/WHY).
Let's look at prophets more closely...
"1 If there arise in the midst of thee a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and he give thee a sign or a wonder,
2 and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;
3 thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or unto that dreamer of dreams: for Jehovah your God proveth you, to know whether ye love Jehovah your God with all your heart and with all your soul."
Notice, this example stated that if a prophet gave a sign or wonder (WHAT) that came to pass, YET attempted to convince (HOW/WHY) people to serve other gods, the prophet was NOT from God.
The measure of a prophet was NOT that the stated WHAT came to pass. It was the HOW/WHY we ought to be focused on.
The WHAT in this case ONLY benefited the "prophet", NOT the body. In fact, in this example, the "prophet" was making the body unprofitable by leading people after other gods.
Do you remember this passage?
"16 And it came to pass, as we were going to the place of prayer, that a certain maid having a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much gain by soothsaying.
17 The same following after Paul and us cried out, saying, These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim unto you the way of salvation.
18 And this she did for many days. But Paul, being sore troubled, turned and said to the spirit, I charge thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And it came out that very hour."
This maid stated a Right WHAT (These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim unto you the way of salvation.), however, Paul believed she had a Wrong HOW/WHY...so he judged that she had an evil spirit and he caused it to come out of her.
I believe Paul realized that people would think she was with Paul and his group after Paul left...which would have allowed her to take the people off course...just like the Deuteronomy 13 passage warned. The WHY behind WHAT the maid stated was ACTUALLY an attempt to give HERSELF credibility. Again, God's focus with prophets was the benefit of a group of people...usually to the short-term detriment of the individual who was prophesying!
"17 And Jehovah said unto me, They have well said that which they have spoken.
18 I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
19 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.
20 But the prophet, that shall speak a word presumptuously in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.
21 And if thou say in thy heart, How shall we know the word which Jehovah hath not spoken?
22 when a prophet speaketh in the name of Jehovah, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which Jehovah hath not spoken: the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously, thou shalt not be afraid of him."
This passage explained that the person was NOT a prophet if the WHAT didn't occur. However, from the first passage, just because the WHAT did occur, that didn't necessarily mean they were a prophet.
So far, it looks like our "decision tree" is:
Wrong WHAT - Not a prophet
Right WHAT, Wrong HOW/WHY - Not a prophet
Right WHAT, Right HOW/WHY - Prophet
In the previous post on Discernment, we saw examples from Solomon and Jesus (speaking about Jonah). Here's another passage from Jesus:
"38 Then certain of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, Teacher, we would see a sign from thee.
39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given it but the sign of Jonah the prophet:
40 for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
41 The men of Nineveh shall stand up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, a greater than Jonah is here.
42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, a greater than Solomon is here." (Matthew 12:38-42, ASV)
Jesus called Jonah a prophet. Let's look at Jonah 3:
"1 And the word of Jehovah came unto Jonah the second time, saying,
2 Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.
3 So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of Jehovah. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city, of three days' journey.
4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown."
(We don't know SPECIFICALLY all of WHAT Jonah stated. However, we know that Jonah did say Nineveh would be overthrown in forty days...which was a WHAT.)
"5 And the people of Nineveh believed God; and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
6 And the tidings reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
7 And he made proclamation and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, nor drink water;
8 but let them be covered with sackcloth, both man and beast, and let them cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in his hands.
9 Who knoweth whether God will not turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?"
(I covered this in "Is God Judging the U.S.?" Sodom was judged because of four causes. Nineveh responded by doing the opposite of these causes of judgment. While we don't know ALL of WHAT Jonah stated, it looked like he stated enough that the people understood that God was judging them BECAUSE (WHY) of their ways and that they could avoid judgment by changing their ways (HOW).)
"10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil which he said he would do unto them; and he did it not."
The Bible stated that Jonah said Nineveh would be overthrown in forty days. This was Jonah's WHAT.
Nineveh was NOT overthrown in forty days.
Jonah's "sign and/or wonder" did NOT happen...which would make him NOT a prophet...yet Jesus called Jonah a prophet. How do we resolved this contradiction?
Before you think this was the only time this occurred in the Bible, remember Isaiah and Hezekiah?
II Kings 20
"1 In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith Jehovah, Set thy house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.
2 Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto Jehovah, saying,
3 Remember now, O Jehovah, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.
4 And it came to pass, before Isaiah was gone out into the middle part of the city, that the word of Jehovah came to him, saying,
5 Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the prince of my people, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee; on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of Jehovah.
6 And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake."
Isaiah the prophet stated that GOD SAID Hezekiah's sickness would end in death. Then Hezekiah didn't die. Again, here was someone we consider a prophet stating a WHAT that didn't happen. Why do we still consider these people to be prophets?
Notice, earlier in Matthew 12 (the chapter in which Jesus called Jonah a prophet), there was this passage:
"14 But the Pharisees went out, and took counsel against him, how they might destroy him.
15 And Jesus perceiving it withdrew from thence: and many followed him; and he healed them all,
16 and charged them that they should not make him known:
17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying,
18 Behold, my servant whom I have chosen; My beloved in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my Spirit upon him, And he shall declare judgment to the Gentiles.
19 He shall not strive, nor cry aloud; Neither shall any one hear his voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed shall he not break, And smoking flax shall he not quench, Till he send forth judgment unto victory.
21 And in his name shall the Gentiles hope."
Matthew (writing under God's influence) called Isaiah a prophet in the same chapter as Jesus called Jonah a prophet...YET BOTH claimed a WHAT from God that did NOT occur! Did God/Jesus lie? Were Jonah and Isaiah not really prophets?
The ONLY answer that did NOT result in God lying or these people NOT being prophets was that the WHAT was Right but could be changed by people!
Jonah stated a Right WHAT for the benefit of the people (unbelievers!)...so that they could choose to respond in a fashion that would benefit them.
Their response definitely did NOT benefit Jonah. In fact, the next (and final chapter) of the Book of Jonah dealt with how angry Jonah was that he did NOT benefit! (Can this get any more blatant? Prophets do NOT personally benefit from their prophecy!) Also, notice that this gift continued to work through a person who was in disobedience. Remember in the Book of Romans Series that Paul said the gifts of God are without repentance! They flow regardless of the condition of the individual!
As for Isaiah, he actually told Hezekiah the news for the benefit of Israel! However, Hezekiah's decision ended up with Manasseh being born to the detriment of all of Israel.
Notice, when prophets spoke to kings, they were speaking to the leader of the nation (and NOT an individual) for the benefit of the nation (group of people).
Finally, there were MANY times in which God spoke through a prophet and asked a Question within the prophecy. Notice, when this happened, God was asking a rhetorical Question in order to present EVERYTHING else as an answer...as a HOW/WHY! God will also do this to stay on the right side of Justice...rather than initiate Judgment, God will establish through a rhetorical Question that He is on the right side of Justice.
One of the first things I look for in a "word from God" are Questions. When you read the Bible, notice the number of times God asked a Question through the prophets. Notice how few times today's "prophets" ask a Question when they say God is speaking through them.
It seems the key points to remember about prophets are:
1. Prophets speak for the benefit of a group of people.
2. Prophets do NOT speak for their own benefit.
3. Prophets are determined by the Right HOW/WHY...the WHAT is NOT the key to determining if someone is a prophet or not.
Tomorrow, we will look at a modern day example of a person claiming to be a prophet...